A Lancôme campaign, a live TV interview… People, remember my book!

We’re still in the buzz of International Women’s Day 2017, so I am very honoured (and slightly amused) to have been chosen by Lancôme as one of 40 powerful women to be featured in the My Shade My Power campaign for their new line of Teint Idole Ultra Wear foundation. 

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Wait, what? As their foundation comes in 40 shades of skin tone, the new campaign features 40 diverse women who have been impressive in different industries and professional fields. Very humbling to be in the same group as cultural icons like Gurinder Chadha, Bonnie Greer, and Malorie Blackman. The campaign will be in the UK and Ireland all spring, and you’ll soon see posters and handouts in stores as well!

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Aside from makeup ads (for which I did NOT get paid, but this underpaid writer could definitely use the money), I’ve been pretty busy writing and speaking.  I’ve started writing for Media Diversified, and my article on Hollywood’s Awards Season Obsession with Rape and Sexual Assault was quite popular.  It’s true: each year, prestige pictures roll out with plum roles for actors to play rape survivors and rapists (and hopefully win awards), but how well do these films reflect the lived reality of rape and sexual assault?

I was in New York and Boston earlier this week, and did a live TV interview with i24 News — on their program ‘Stateside’ with David Shuster.  The Marine photo scandal is still raging in the US, so they asked me to comment and gave me a chance to talk about my upcoming novel DARK CHAPTER.

Guess I can tick ‘live TV interview with international news channel in Times Square’ off my list!

In Boston, I’d been invited to speak at my alma mater Harvard’s 50th Anniversary Symposium for the Folklore and Mythology degree.  Yes, that’s what I got my BA in, and it was truly wonderful and reaffirming to talk about the impact of a humanities education on my life and how I am still using storytelling (to a very large degree!) in the work that I do.

Finally, my red-eye flight landed back in London on International Women’s Day, and I somehow made it through five hours of class to chair a fascinating panel discussion that evening for The Malala Fund.  This was on the importance of girls’ education worldwide, and followed a charity screening of the documentary ‘I AM MALALA.’  I had the chance to speak with an impressive panel of women working on gender equality, including representatives of Women 4 Africa, Educate Girls, The Malala Fund.

But there will be plenty more of such panels this weekend at the sold-out 7th annual Women of the World Festival at the SouthBank Centre.  It turns out I’m speaking/chairing at FOUR different events over the next few days there (all on rape and sexual assault, of course).   

Saturday, March 11, 3pm: Deciding Whose Story Gets Told 

Sunday, March 12, 11:30am: Q&A panel following the World Premiere of ‘Foreign Body’

Sunday, March 12, 6:15pm: Chairing the Discussion Group on Giving Testimony about Sexual Assault and Abuse

Tuesday, March 14, 5:30pm: Chairing a 7pm Discussion Group following South of Forgiveness

This last event is the re-programming of the controversial TED Talk speakers Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger (a rape survivor and her rapist who share the stage), which generated an angry online petition to have the event moved out of the WoW Festival.  WoW, to their credit, moved the event and have felt it was important to enable conversation with survivors to hear their thoughts on the topic.  So it promises to be a heady, but vital discussion.  Hope to see some of you at the SouthBank this weekend!

Cover reveal for DARK CHAPTER!

At long last, here is the cover reveal for the UK/Irish edition of my novel, DARK CHAPTER!

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In earlier versions of the design, the woman’s hair was blonde, so there was a bit of a tussle to ensure she was depicted as a woman of color, but we got there in the end!  I’m quite pleased with it: ominous, yet also somewhat redemptive in feel.  Hopefully, it says intelligent literary suspense to you.

Legend Press will be publishing the novel in hardcover 1st June 2017 in the UK/Ireland, and I look forward to seeing what over cover designs will be like for the other countries.  We’re just about to sign off on the final edit, so I’ll finally be putting to bed a novel I started writing three years ago.  (In fact, during NaNoWriMo 2013.)

In October, I also won 2nd place in the SI Leeds Literary Prize for the unpublished manuscript of DARK CHAPTER, which was a great honour.  Here’s myself and Jamilah Ahmed, the 3rd prize and Reader’s Choice winner, at the awards ceremony at the Ilkley Literature Festival.   Amita Murray won 1st place, and I can’t wait to see the writing from all the shortlisted authors being read out there.

Off the back of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet US author Paul Beatty when he was in London for the Man Booker Prize Ceremony.  He eventually WON the Booker Prize for his hilarious novel THE SELLOUT, four days after this photo was taken!  Here he is at the Waterstones Piccadilly with me, SI Leeds shortlisted writer Stella Ahmadou, and the legendary Margaret Busby, who was the UK’s first black publisher back in the 1960s.  So inspiring for an encouraging, down-to-earth, bold and incisive writer like him to have won the UK’s top literary prize.

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

Upcoming readings for the SI Leeds Literary Prize

So, I’ve made it onto the shortlist for the 2016 SI Leeds Literary Prize!  The prize will be awarded on Wed, Oct 12th at the Ilkley Literature Festival, at a reading and event with Malika Booker.  On Sunday, Oct 9th, we’ll also be reading as part of the London Literature Festival at the SouthBank Centre, where award-winning writer Bernardine Evaristo will chair an important discussion on diversity in publishing and writing. Come join us at either event!

I already had a fantastic time at the first SI Leeds Literary Prize event at the Rich Mix on September 19th, which was hosted by Sunny Singh. It was a pleasure meeting the other shortlisted authors, each of whom has a unique and valuable perspective in her writing — and I look forward to seeing them again at the upcoming events!  Here’s all of us on stage at the Rich Mix event:

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix!

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix…

I’m shortlisted for the unpublished manuscript of my upcoming novel Dark Chapter, which my agents will be representing at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  Here’s their pre-Frankfurt newsletter.  They’ve been wonderfully supportive of me for the past year, and we’re all looking forward to the novel’s publication in 2017 in multiple countries!

In other news, I’m continuing to meet with other activists and artists on the issue of sexual assault and consent, both in the UK and elsewhere.  On September 16th, I attended the first-ever Being the Story event, which focused on storytelling to advance social justice and humanitarian causes.  I was asked by the organizers sounddelivery to write a guest-blog on my own uses of storytelling to address sexual assault, and you can read it here.

An article gone viral, academic presentations & upcoming theatre

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If you haven’t read it, my latest article on the Stanford sexual assault has gone somewhat viral, with over 90,000 people (at last count) reading it around the world!  After The Conversation published it, other media outlets like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Independent, TIME, Scroll, and Raw Story ran it, making it available to readers as far flung as Oz and India.  Case in point: social media amplifies (as I argue in my article), and with millions of people worldwide reading the full impact statement of the Stanford survivor, this case has become a game-changer in influencing the way we think and talk about sexual assault.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 13.06.16

This is all very on topic for my PhD research on social media and narratives by rape survivors, and  I’m thrilled to announce I recently passed my PhD upgrade at the London School of Economics! Which means it’ll now just be, oh, three years before you can call me ‘doctor’?  (Yep, a long game we’re talking here.) This week I’ve just presented a paper on my work with child sexual abuse survivors at the CMCI PhD Conference ‘(In)Visible Cultures’ at Kings’ College London, and I’ll be presenting it again at the Media and Communications PhD Symposium at the LSE on June 30th.

On June 23 and 27, I’ll chair the Q&A following performances of Foreign Body, a work-in-progress piece of physical theatre, which explores a woman’s memory of sexual assault and her interview with her perpetrator.  The Q&A will be with Imogen Butler-Cole of The What Works (the theatre-maker who created and performs Foreign Body) and Marina Cantacuzino and Anne-Marie Cockburn of The Forgiveness Project.  Marina founded the well-known project, and Anne-Marie’s own restorative process with the young man who supplied a fatal overdose of MDMA to her 15-year-old daughter is a remarkable journey, You can watch her story here. We’ll be discussing trauma, recovery, and restorative justice among other things — and do join us at either of the performances: at the Off Beat Festival in Oxford at 7:45pm on Thursday, June 23 (tickets £8/6) and at the RADA Festival in London at 4pm on Monday, June 27 (tickets £10/5).  Hope to see you there!

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Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Asian Women of Achievement Awards Dinner, where I was shortlisted in the Social and Humanitarian category.  Although I didn’t win, it was truly inspiring to be among so many fantastic women, who have made such a difference in their work across a range of industries.  Here’s me and the delightful Harleen Kaur, winner in the Sports category, who at 17-years-old is an international World Martial Kombat champion. It’ll be an honour to be part of a growing network of accomplished Asian women recognised by the Women of the Future Foundation — and I look forward to seeing our collective positive impact on society continue!AWAA w Harleen

Asian Women of Achievement Awards – I’ve been shortlisted!

I’m very honored to have been shortlisted for the prestigious Asian Women of Achievement Awards in the Social and Humanitarian category, for my work on the issue of sexual assault and consent, including launching the Clear Lines Festival.  The awards are meant ‘to celebrate the often unsung Asian heroines of British life’ so… hey, I appreciate that!  Awards evening is May 12 at the London Hilton on Park Lane.  Looking forward to it!

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Speaking of Clear Lines, we’ve recently sent out our Spring 2016 newsletter, which you can read here.  And on March 12, I had the opportunity to run an important discussion group on sexual assault and abuse at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the South Bank Centre, on behalf of Clear Lines.  This followed the Sexual Assault and Abuse: Giving Testimony session, where I spoke on the panel, chaired by Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre. Overall, WOW was a fantastic weekend, full of inspiring talks and performances, addressing all sorts of issues related to achieving greater gender equality. Many thanks especially to the survivors, witnesses, and supporters who came shared, listened, and spoke out at our discussion group.

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Leading up to WOW, I wrote this opinion piece for The Huffington Post on the Oscars — did you notice the issue of sexual abuse was center-stage at the Academy Awards this year?  That’s progress!  As well as this blog post for Polis: Journalism and Society at the LSE, on the importance of celebrity, solidarity, and activism around sexual assault.

For now, I’m off to New England and New York for a short break, and will be back in London in mid-April… whereupon I’ll have to start working on my PhD upgrade in earnest. Lots of exciting things happening at the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE – we were recently ranked 3rd best Media Studies Department in the world… Not too shabby, eh?

 

A Swedish book deal & my current PhD research at the LSE

Happy 2016!  This update is very overdue, but I haven’t had much spare time these past few months, ever since starting my PhD.  But more on that later…

The first bit of exciting news is that my debut novel Dark Chapter has its first publication deal — it’ll be coming out in Sweden in Spring 2017 thanks to Norstedts, one of Sweden’s most prestigious publishing houses.  They also publish Margaret Atwood, Elena Ferrante, Colm Tóibín, and they discovered Stieg Larsson, so it’s not bad company to be in! The deal was listed at the top of Publishers Weekly Hot International Book Properties in November. I’m looking forward to publishers making the book available in other countries… I hope you are, too!

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Alongside my creative writing, I’ve begun my PhD at the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. I’ll be researching the impact of social media on the public dialogue about rape and sexual assault — a very topical subject, and obviously, one which I feel strongly about, given my own experience and exploration of the issue. You can watch a video and read an article on my research here:

At the end of October, I spoke at the Feminism in London Conference, as a nominee for the annual Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize.  I didn’t win in the end, but it was an honor to be at the awards ceremony, both as an Individual Award nominee and as a representative of the Clear Lines Festival (nominated for the Group Award).  To have the chance to meet the other shortlisted women — and hear about their collective efforts working against gender-based violence — was nothing short of inspiring.

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Speaking of Clear Lines, we have begun to release videos from the festival online.  You can watch them for free here, including videos of me speaking on the panel about news coverage of sexual assault, commenting on what it’s like to have your own rape reported in the media.   There’s also videos from our Spoken Word Night, featuring some very talented poets, and more videos will pop up over the next few months.

You can read my end-of-2015 round-up here.  Looking forward to what 2016 will bring!